Office of the Press Secretary
(Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo)
|For Immediate Release||November 23, 1999|
U.S. Winterization Efforts in Kosovo
Since the end of the conflict in Kosovo six months ago, the United States and our European allies, together with international donors and humanitarian agencies, have engaged in an intense effort to return refugees safely to their homes and to ensure that they have adequate winter shelter.
The United States has provided over $33 million for shelter assistance in Kosovo, primarily from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In addition, a substantial portion of the Department of State's $40 million contribution to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is being used to support the winterization program.
Serb forces damaged 125,000 houses during the conflict, of which 49,000 were completely destroyed. The United States and other donors are providing shelter kits to repair the 76,000 damaged but repairable homes.
USAID, UNHCR and the European Commission Humanitarian Organization (ECHO) are providing 66,000 of the needed kits, while other donors, non-governmental organizations and individual homeowners are repairing the remaining houses. All of the 30,000 U.S. kits, which contain timber, plastic sheeting, tools, stoves, carpeting and insulation materials, have arrived in Kosovo, and over 50% have been delivered to individual families. The rest will be distributed no later than mid-December. Upon completion of the basic repairs to the damaged but repairable homes, over 450,000 Kosovars will be housed in warm, dry rooms in both rural and urban areas.
The international community is also helping the 49,000 families whose homes were damaged beyond repair to find space with other Kosovar families or in collective centers. As part of this effort, the U.S. is providing roofing materials to repair 7,900 roofs for families that agree to share their home with two additional families. USAID is also supporting the completion of 260 homes that were under construction prior to the conflict and sustained little damage during the war.
Major heating shortages are not expected, despite ongoing electrical problems in Kosovo. The stoves and firewood that USAID and other donors are distributing will help ensure adequate heat in rural areas through the winter, while donors seek to finish repairing the electrical grid that will provide heat in urban areas.
As a contingency, UNHCR has also positioned 15,000 winterized tents, which would house 90,000 people, and established a team that is prepared to deliver emergency supplies to remote areas throughout the winter. In addition, the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) has established a rapid response team to provide additional stoves, roofing materials, blankets and other relief supplies. These teams will work to ensure that any gaps in humanitarian assistance during the winter are quickly and effectively filled.
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